King Norodom Sihanouk is not coming to Phnom Penh to convene the new National Assembly next week, a palace statement said Thursday. Instead, the entire new parliament, bar the building itself, will come to him.
The 122 new lawmakers, along with diplomats and other dignitaries, will have to travel to Siem Reap for a ceremony Thursday at the King’s residence and a swearing-in session at Angkor Wat.
“We do not question the choice of the King,” said Tol Lah, secretary-general of the royalist Funcinpec party. “We welcome his suggestion, as we think this is the glory, the cultural heritage, the sacred place of Cambodia.”
Prince Sisowath Sirirath, newly elected Funcinpec member for Battambang province, said he saw no logistical problems in taking the Assembly to the northern historic capital. He said he believed the King wanted to begin a process that would end with the formation of a new government without further disruption.
“Whatever dispute or quarrel can then be resolved in a gentlemanly, legal manner in the National Assembly,” he said.
Opposition supporters took to the streets of Phnom Penh over the last three weeks to protest the election results and to demand the resignation of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen.
CPP spokesman Khieu Kanharith suggested the King may have proposed the Siem Reap venue for fear of reprisals or more protests in the capital.
“He doesn’t want to come here because some people are not happy with the convening of this ceremony so they may try to harm his good name,” he said.
The spokesman admitted that taking all the newly elected parliamentarians to Siem Reap for the ceremony would be “a bit difficult,” but suggested that if the three parties hold a successful summit next week, the King may change his mind on the venue.
Palace spokespeople would either not comment or could not be reached by phone Thursday.